|Posted on June 11, 2017 at 6:00 AM|
May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.
Each year the Sunday after Pentecost we have Trinity Sunday. And it is a Sunday, you may have heard me say before, that some clergy regard with a degree of trepidation, for it is a day when they feel obliged to discuss one of the great mysteries of the Christian faith, how it is that while God is One, he exists in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
But mysteries, I think, are only for explaining when it comes to the fictional kind we find in detective novels and television programmes. The nature of God, however, is not a problem for us to solve, to put neatly into a box so that it does not trouble us any more. When it comes to faith mysteries are for accepting. But that does not mean there is nothing we can say about the matter. Indeed, I would think it important that we consider how it is that we know that although there is only one God he is three persons.
First, let us begin by thinking about how it is that we know anything about God. Natural reason can tell us much. We know, for example, that everything in nature has a beginning and an end, even the universe itself; and that nothing within our universe can cause itself to come into being. That suggests that there must be something outside of nature, some force outside of time and space which brought our universe into being. That act of creation and the intricate design of the universe argues that that force must have intelligence or mind – in other words it must be some form of being. This being, existing outside of time and space, must needs be eternal, without beginning and without end; having the ability to create our seemingly infinite universe out of nothing, it must be all powerful; and of unlimited intelligence.
Such things about God we can learn from observation of the world around us. But, just as there are things we can learn about a person from observing their actions, and other we can only know if they tell us, there are things we can only know about God if he himself tells us. And it is more than reasonable to expect that God would choose to tell us something more about himself than we can gain by simply looking at the world around us; if a Divine intelligence creates a universe with other intelligent beings in it, then it simply makes no sense to imagine that he would then not communicate with us in some way.
And if fact, God has communicated additional information about himself to us. We have a record of these communications in Holy Scripture. And we call this information Divine Revelation, for by it we know that God has revealed information concerning himself to those he has created.
And I use the word 'know' rather than 'believe' deliberately; for knowledge comes not just from the head but also from the heart. And just as we can know things concerning God by use of our natural reason and looking at the world around us, our heads, so also we can learn of him by looking within ourselves, our hearts. We should not be surprised at this; for the one who created the world also created us. And this inner knowledge tells us that the one who created us also communicates with us.
We all have some experience of this, such as our in-built sense of morality by which we know right from wrong and good from evil; we have it also in our innate sense that this life is not all there is, that there is something about human existence that goes beyond the mere physical; and we experience it also in our instinct for the Divine, an experience shared by all people, in all places, throughout history. Others have experienced this Divine self-revelation more clearly, more personally, and more specifically. And we call the record of that Divine Revelation Sacred Scripture, which we have collected together in that wondrous book we call the Holy Bible.
And in the Bible we are told by God himself that he is three persons in one God. We see this in our reading from St Matthew's Gospel today when Christ himself commands his disciples to go out into the world, baptising all people in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. We see it in our epistle from the Apostle St Paul when he blesses the church in Corinth with the words we now refer to as the Grace – words referencing God in the three persons of the Blessed Trinity. And we even see it in our Old Testament reading today, words taken from the very first verses of the first book of the Bible, Genesis, where we see first God himself, then his Spirit hovering over the waters, and then his creative Word spoken, saying 'let there be light' – and that Word, we know from the opening Chapter of St John's Gospel, was made flesh in Jesus Christ our Lord.
So we know that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit because he has told us so in Sacred Scripture; and the knowledge of God that we have in our hearts assures us that what Scripture tells us is true. We do not have to understand how this can be any more than we have to understand how it is that he is eternal; how Christ can be both God and Man, or how it is that bread and wine becomes his Flesh and Blood for us in the Holy Eucharist. It is enough for us that God tells us it is so; and that we know in our hearts that it is true. A truth that I pray all people in all places will come to know in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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